Mobile payments provider Square has launched an PayPal rival, Square Cash, offering a straightforward way for individuals to exchange small sums direct to each others' debit cards. The invite-only beta, which Square has confirmed is rolling out gradually, attempts to make sending a payment as straightforward as filling in recipient details, an amount, and a message.
The demo animation on the sparse Square Cash site shows an example transaction, with one person sending a $25 payment to a friend in return for drinks at dinner. The concept appears to be a more individual approach to mobile money than the business Square is best known for, where an iPhone or iPad dongle is used to swipe credit or debit cards, and intended for merchants to process payments from general customers.
Instead, Square Cash appears to work more like PayPal or Cenmo, or indeed Google's recent integration of Google Wallet into Gmail. There, Gmail users can send payments to friends by simply clicking a button in their email inbox.
Just as with those other services, Square Cash requires that both users be signed up to begin with. Then, transactions are sent directly between debit cards; the sender uses their regular email account to send a message with the sum involved in the subject line, and as long as they CC Square Cash in the email, the money is exchanged.
The recipient gets a similar email, with a link they can click to approve the exchange. Until that link is clicked, the sender can cancel the payment; there's a $0.50 cost per payment, charged to the sender.
That's slightly higher than Google's minimum fee of $0.30 - based on a 2.9-percent processing fee - but if you're sending more than around $17.58 then Square's set cost works out cheaper.
There's no telling when Square Cash will launch publicly, and the company itself is giving little away.